All models are wrong, some are useful

Going through the Complexity Thinking presentation by Jurgen Appelo I kind of had a small epiphany.

One of the challenges that I have had over the past years is to use the MBA and business thinking in the social sector. The language is different, the models cant be copied; they need to be “localized” and at the same time we need something to make sense of the complexity.

I started to see that some models are useful in some contexts. For example, Rumelt’s model of the strategy kernel as he described in Good Strategy/Bad Strategy is quite useful in a public sector or public policy setting whereas Roger Martin’s inter-related set of strategy questions are useful for the environment The Australian Center for Social Innovation (TACSI) finds itself.

It is the usefulness of the model to the context that is critical.


  • Have many models in your arsenal
  • Understand the context (situation, environment, people, language etc)
  • Match models to context
  • Make models useful
  • Get things done

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